DEFENDER Nathan Stainfield knows he will have to drip blood, sweat and tears in pre-season as he aims to make a place in the Boston United starting XI his own.
The 23-year-old spent his summer break backpacking around Europe.
But now he is back home and ready to make getting into top shape his number one priority.
And Stainfield knows he cannot cut any corners after learning the hard way last season.
The centre backs Pilgrims debut was, in part the stuff of dreams as he scored with virtually his first touch to help United beat Hinckley 2-0 at York Street in September.
But it was also the stuff of nightmares as he picked up a thigh injury in that game which put a dent his his development through that season.
The problem was that Stainfield was thrust into the Boston side just days after returning from spending his summer coaching in the USA.
And without a proper pre-season schedule he was not match fit and susceptible to picking up the strain.
“It was a bit of a shock appearance as I’d only just got back into the country,” Stainfield told The Standard.
“I wanted to be involved, but without a doubt I didn’t give myself enough time and that affected me massively.
“I needed to play more minutes.”
After overcoming the injury, Stainfield was back in the side, making five starts – but at a time when a weakened Pilgrims team suffered a slump, seeing them knocked out of the FA Cup at Kidsgrove and drubbed 6-1 at Altrincham.
Despite helping things turn around with two wins and a draw, he was then loaned out to Hucknall before returning to Boston but spending a frustrating 16 matches without an appearance.
But as he worked hard, he forced his way back into the side, becoming a regular towards the end of the campaign.
Now he is determined to begin this season as he finished last – a regular on the teamsheet.
Stainfield added: “It’s just a case of training hard basically doing what I didn’t have the chance to do last year when I had just come back.
“I’ve got no excuses. I have to earn it myself.”
However, despite that spell out of the team, Stainfield believes that he still became a better player.
“I was training hard and improving as I was training with better players,” he continued.
“It was helping me but I didn’t really know if my chance was going to come.
“I knew I was improving, but all I could do was look in the mirror and know I wasn’t doing anything that was letting myself down.
“I was hopping for my chance, but there were good players at the club.”
But Stainfield is quick to point out that there is no experience like playing to bring a young hopeful up to scratch.
He said: “When I got my chance and a run in the side I had to get used the the pace and movement.
“That was the test for me.
“In the United Counties League (where he played with Boston Town previously) you don’t require the same sharpness and fitness you do in the Northern Conference.
“But once I adapted to that style of play it was fine.”